In the sweltering heat and humidity that is everyday Singapore, an iced coffee never looked so good.
Breakfast crowds at Tiong Bahru Market
After a long day and late night, Suze, the es&t crew and I end up at Tiong Bahru Market the next day for a mid-morning breakfast. The place is packed with locals, a hive of people eating and drinking and chatting in the sticky 75% humidity.
I'm compelled to do a lap of every hawker stall before I make my choice. Just as I always peruse a restaurant menu at least twice before ordering, I
Breakfast set SG$4.80
Soft boiled eggs, kaya toast and iced coffee
Suze has gone for the breakfast set, a quiet celebration of protein, carbs and caffeine.
Soft-cooked egg yolk
I've really come to embrace the Singapore-style runny egg. Cracked into a bowl, the egg white is somewhat soupy but made palatable with a generous splash of soy and lots of white pepper. The star of the show is the egg yolk off course, a shimmering golden orb that begs to be burst open.
Breakfast dessert? Kaya toast. Suze was pleased the crusts were cut off, but I found the thick toast a little dry and crumbly - more like a Melba toast. The kaya jam still had nothing on my favourite version at Hong Kong Jin Tian Roast Meat around the corner.
The es&t team have industriously gathered a little buffet on their own.
Fried chive dumplings and pink rice flour cakes stuffed with sticky rice
Pork rib and prawn mee
Frogs leg congee $8.00
The frogs leg congee is more of the more expensive breakfast options, but there's plenty of frog action in the bowl.
The frog is tender and almost sweet. I've always thought that frog tastes like "fishy chicken", but here the congee acts as a soothing base of flavour, spiked with rings of green onion and crisp slices of you tiao deep-fried breadsticks.
My breakfast in brown paper
And my choice? It comes wrapped in brown paper and secured with a rubber band...
Nasi Lemak SG$2.50
from Bismillah Wan Maemunah, Stall 02-16
Nasi lemak! I was astounded that this little package cost a mere SG$2.50. A deep-fried chicken drumette, two small crispy fish, a handful of fried anchovies, omelette, coconut rice was capped off with a tasty splodge of sambal sauce. Unlike many versions of nasi lemak I've had in Sydney, I didn't find this overly oily or rich.
Bo bo cha cha SG$2.00
from Tian Tian Yuan Dessert
Oh yes, ice was required and rather than have a drink, I choose an icy dessert every time! I went for the bo bo cha cha, not just because I like the name--doesn't it dance across your tongue and make you want to shake your shoulders?--but because it's another dish I've struggled to find decent versions of in Sydney-town.
The bo bo cha cha is quite a simple dish really. Cubes of taro and sweet potato are simmered slowly until tender then served with sweetened coconut milk. My bowl also included fluorescent-coloured taipoca pearls. It's quite a rich dessert with the coconut milk, but the ice helps mute the sweetness.
Delivery man with giant bamboo baskets of dumplings
Tiong Bahru Market entrance
Suze and I exit down the escalators and spend some time exploring the Tiong Bahru wet markets on the ground floor. It's a moderate-sized collection of fresh food stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood.
Tiong Bahru Wet Markets
Chilli, bitter melon, tofu and eggplant stuffed with fish paste
Fresh seafood stall
For lunch, we join the es&t crew again and meet up with Leslie, the Singaporean food blogger from I Eat I Shoot I Post. Leslie had provided us with an address of where we were going to eat, and our taxi driver is a little concerned, wondering why he isn't taking a carload of tourists to the nearest shopping centre, but instead to a block number on Zion Road.
We exit the taxi wondering if we've been delivered to the right address when we're finally reassured by the sight of red plastic chairs and then a smiling Leslie who is waiting for us with his entire family and his right hand man.
Siang Hee restaurant
Chef and owner Ah Yoke
Siang Hee is a small cafe restaurant that, thanks to Leslie's post, has enjoyed a surge in patronage from keen blog readers. When we arrive there's a table of women in their 40s and 50s next to us, and halfway through our meal, one of them finally leans over and says "Are you Leslie? We read your blog!"
"The food is very good and so cheap here," one of them says to me. "Seven dishes only SG$100!" she exclaims with glee.
Leslie introduces us as Sydney food bloggers and they all nod and smile knowingly, clucking with approval. It's a surreal experience - not only do they know about food blogs but they're devoted and appreciative blog readers as well.
Inside the Siang Hee kitchen
Chef and owner Ah Yoke is nervous about letting us into the kitchen. "It's so messy!" she apologises. It's not.
Kang kong water spinach
Chillis in vinegar and soy
Ah Yoke cooking in the kitchen
Leslie is a fan of Siang Hee not only because the dishes are of high quality and cheap, but because Ah Yoke is constantly creating new dishes. "Her favourite food is deep-fried," Leslie tells us, at which point Suze perks up and says "Omigod has she tried a deep-fried Mars Bar?"
There's a funny exchange as Leslie explains the concept of deep-frying a caramel and nougat layered chocolate bar. Ah Yoke listens intently, looks puzzled, but nods with a nervous smile.
"She really wants to try it," Leslie translates.
We leave the ordering to Leslie and soon the table is littered with dishes.
Shrimp paste chicken wings
The shrimp paste chicken wings are supremely crunchy. Marinated in a mix of shrimp paste for two days, the flesh is juicy and bursting with flavour--not fishy, but salty and sweet. The crunch of the batter is earth-shattering. And there's barely a skerrick of residual oil to be seen.
Luohanguo tasty pork
The luohanguo tasty pork is like a complex version of sweet and sour pork, the sweetness coming from the luohanguo fruit.
Beans with salted egg yolks
Fresh squeaky green beans are the perfect complement to the fine crunch of minced dried prawns, served with slivers of fiery chilli.
Hotplate oyster egg
Hotplate oyster egg is the best oyster omelette I find in Singapore. The oysters are fresh and raw and delicious against the fluffy omelette.
Specialty bean curd
The food. It continues. I can barely manage a few mouthfuls of the specialty bean curd, the huge chunk of deep-fried pork knuckle and the thin slices of fish with vegetables.
Deep-fried pork knuckle
Fish with vegetables
Butter cream prawns with pumpkin sauce
This is because I've been eating the butter cream prawns with pumpkin sauce. It's a strange combination that somehow works - pillows of sweet prawns in a light crispy batter that's doused with a bright yellow sauce of pumpkin.
Garlic steamed grouper
I'm also a huge fan of the garlic steamed grouper, a whole fish that is simple but succulent.
Siang Hee owner Ah Yoke with Leslie from I Eat I Shoot I Post
Thanks Leslie for being such a great host, and Ah Yoke for an amazing meal!
Ducks drying in front of a fan for crispy skin duck
Suze and I hit Orchard Road next, the massive shopping strip in Singapore Central that will defeat even the most determined shopper. The department stores are sleek and modern and huge, and there are several of these behemoth buildings. Suze and I grin like twins and head straight for Takashimaya, the Japanese department store with an outlet in Singapore.
Takashimaya centre court
The centre court of Takashimaya is filled with a rotation of discount stalls. We meander through several levels but spend most of the time in the basement food hall. Of course.
Romankan Yokohama stall inside Takashimaya Food Hall
It's not until you chronicle a food blogger's day out that you realise how much food is consumed!
The katsu-sando. It calls us.
Suze and I are drawn wordlessly to the snack cart where we make our purchase and then sit down at the tables nearby. The crumbed pork fillet has plenty of crunch, garnished with a thick slice of tomato, a curl of lettuce and squiggles of creamy mayonnaise. The bread is soft and fluffy.
Hot dog on a stick covered with french fries SG$2.20
And only an hour later, another snack. It's funny how we both catch sight of the hot dog on a stick covered with french fries at the same time. We just look at each other and nod.
Alas the hotdog looks better than it tastes. The fries are a little dry and crusty, although we did forgo the offer of sauce just so we could get a better photo!
A couple sitting next to us are intrigued, and later on we meet up with Howard and Qing who are finishing the last of theirs! Food bloggers think alike!
Howard is hungry and keen to visit MOS Burger, the Japanese burger chain he has missed so much since his last trip to Japan.
MOS cheeseburger SG$3.55
Qing has the MOS cheeseburger, a thick patty of beef smothered with diced onions, tomato sauce and sandwiched in a bun with a slice of cheese.
Yakiniku rice burger $3.70
Howard takes the adventurous route and orders the yakiniku rice burger. Yes, a rice burger. We pause as he unwraps his wax paper parcel.
Yakiniku rice burger with French fries
What is a rice burger? Two discs of lukewarm rice compressed together until it forms a chewy patty of starch. It's as tasty as it sounds.
Howard's not impressed! He does admit the yakiniku is okay.
with small French Fries SG$1.80
After a day of non-stop snacking, I only have room for a cheeseburger. The bun is soft but not overly sweet, and there isn't too much of a heavy feeling or unpleasant aftertaste you often get from fast food burgers. The fries have a good crunch to them.
I was impressed by the range of offerings on the menu, including butterflied crumbed prawns (SG$3.30 for 5 pieces), garlic and lemon crumbed mussels (SG$3.30 for 5 pieces) and the unagi eel rice burger (SG$3.70) - only if you like rice patties, of course!
At 9.30pm there's just enough time to get back to the hotel for a nap, a quick shower and then head out again at 11.30pm to hit Clarke Quay, the snazzy strip of nightclub and bar frequented primarily by tourists.
Wheelchairs at The Clinic
Like many tourists, we end up at The Clinic purely for its gimmick value. The theme is hospitals and we collapse on the outdoor seating of wheelchairs. There are inevitable attempts at wheelchair races (strictly cracked down on by patient Clinic staff) and whilst one part of me wonders whether the use of wheelchairs trivialises their need by those that are forced to use them, Suze also points out that many locals avoid sitting in them out of superstition. Instead many sit on the hospital bed-style seating.
X-Nurse's Party shooters SG$50 for 6 syringes
Drinks are not cheap, even if they do offer novelty value. A metal pail of ice holds 6 syringes of alcoholic mixers that's packaged as an "X-Nurses Party" and sold for SG$50. The shots themselves are sweet and not particularly strong. The Sex on a Drip cocktail is served in an IV bag that's literally hooked up to an IV drip and trundled over to you so you can suck it slowly from the tube.
Ahh yes what's that tourism tagline again? Uniquely Singapore!
Grab Your Fork travelled to Singapore as a guest of Nuffnang Australia for the Asia-Pacific Blog Awards.
Don't forget that entries close tomorrow, Friday 5.30pm, for two Grab Your Fork competitions! Enter now to win a copy of Luke Nguyen's Songs of Sapa and in-season movie tickets to see The Boys Are Back.
I saw a preview screening of the movie and was really impressed with this earnest and beautifully shot film. The two sons in the film do a great job, and there's a lovely sense of Aussie larrikinism and the simple joys of childhood.
Tiong Bahru Market
(Wet market on ground floor, hawker stalls up the escalators)
Corner of Lim Liak St and Seng Poh Road, Singapore
Open 7 days 7am-11pm
Siang Hee Restaurant
Block 89 Zion Road
#01-137 Singapore, S160089
Open 7 days 11am-10.30pm (closed once every three weeks on Tuesdays)
Tel: +65 9736 4067
Takashimaya Shopping Centre, Singapore
391a Orchard Road #09-00, Singapore, 238873
Open 7 days 10am-9.30pm
Tel: +65 6738 1111
MOS Burger - Ngee Ann City
391B Orchard Road #B2-32, Ngee Ann City, Singapore 238874
Open 7 days 10am-10pm
Tel: +65 6737 9906
Block C, The Cannery, River Valley Road #1-03
Clarke Quay, Singapore 179022
Open 7 days 5.30pm til late
Tel: +65 6887 3733
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11/12/2009 02:14:00 am